Over the past three weeks farmers have been increasingly at risk as they go to harvest their olives. We are keeping in regular contact with all our partners and farmers in the West Bank, and are relieved to hear that, at least in areas where they feel safe, the olive harvest is happening.
Photo: Haj Bashir (Chair of the Palestine Fair Trade Association) and his family harvest olives in the village of Sanur, 16 miles south of Jenin
Normally at this time of year we would be co-organising a number of trips to Palestine to visit the olive harvest. These have all been cancelled as it not possible or safe to get there right now. You can see below two short clips from the organisers of Protective Presence – a group of volunteers that normally goes out to Palestine every year to help with the harvest as an act of solidarity and support for the farmers. Their testimony serves as a stark reminder of the troubles farmers have been having for many years now.
The situation is changing on a daily basis – and even before the latest violence OCHA reported ‘the highest daily average of settler-related incidents affecting Palestinians since the UN started recording this data in 2006’. Settlers have been attacking and displacing Palestinian herders and farmers in an accelerated land grab.
Last week, a colleague in the West Bank told us:
“We always know to expect an increase in violence and harassment from settlers and the army at this time of year – just when the crucial harvest of olives is due to take place. But this year that violence is increasing and it is not specific to the olive groves.
We have been hearing directly about attacks around Nablus, and we know many farmers and workers have been prevented from going to their farms. There are more roadblocks and checkpoints springing up everywhere. We heard three people in Kasera village were killed by settlers, and we heard of Marda village being attacked, and then there were air strikes on Jenin. We hear of arrests happening every night and shops being burned down.
You can feel the escalation of violence and tension everywhere. Most recently and disturbingly we have heard that there has been a massive distribution of weapons to settlers across the West Bank – perhaps 20,000 settlers have been armed.
This means the value of the olives to us is correspondingly increasing – the more we are prevented from working and getting an income – the more we depend on the land. It is a time to encourage agriculture more than ever simply so people can be self-sufficient.
For many young people, this is the first time they are experiencing violence and destruction on this scale. They too are therefore learning the importance of the land.”
In time of war you go back to your land – and your land will be there waiting for you.